By Linda Ashok
A Strange Place other than Earlobes
Jeena Mary Chacko, Ra Sh, Bini B.S., Sreelatha, Binu Karunakaran
“Winds whose soft-tickling genitals rub against me, it shall be you!” and the moment this loop of erotica subways through my mind, at hand is this book by 5 contemporary Malayali poets, A Strange Place other than Earlobes, a paginated vulva for the liberated reader.
Way back in 2006, when US corporate giants were outsourcing their businesses to India for cheap yet proficient labour in customer service, their very own consumers would compare these callers (including myself) to snake charmers. In a similar example of stereotyping and exoticization, I draw this farfetched allusion to Foucault’s understanding of eastern erotica, which needs a re-examination. Till the age of literary conformism, we subscribed to what these stalwarts imagined about eastern erotica, that they miss objectivism somewhere in the pursuit of art. However, with the advent of technology, when borders are fading, it is tomfoolery to hold on to conservative understandings of eastern erotica as mystical.
This anthology is the best permutation of scientia sexualis and ars erotica; this anthology does help us measure that erotica is beyond casual pandering to commercial sex or an ordinary arousal, it is the arousal of craft, of language, of experiences, beyond the literal.
To begin with, I refer to the poems by Binu Karunakaran. The most reserved of the lot, with an accent of a scholar, he has an uncompassionate supervisory on his poetic aesthetics. Does this sanitize his works, make them forlorn and caustic? You know it when I quote:
“A lean, wind-chested, water-skinned god
Pushing, shoving his pole, deep
into the river bed
Moving us like seeds studded in an open pod.” (Ferry Crossing: Periyar, Pg 61)
Subtle and unbiased, Binu’s works are a testament to his very identity, to his poetic functionary. Dry wit (read: fruits), satire and a wry sense of humor that classify his erotica from the contemporary many. There’s much science in Binu’s rhetoric that exceeds the vultures of erotic expression in the most subservient way. There’s no telling, no showing as well, there’s this generator in his words that strikes the dangerous fire inside a discernible mind.
When Jeena Mary Chacko, talks about A Brief History of the Body, Pg 85, she intercepts numbers into text.
“it floats up finding doors in the air
Camouflages between pages,
Turn into a silhouette, sprout feather
And develops the uncanny look of calm
One needs to rewind it quickly
Oil the part, put it to task.
Leave it for too long
it explodes into a flock of nightingales”
Jeena’s poems have a gorgeous instability; they are inspirited, to say the least. She has decorum of the language; calm and non-perfunctory. And this is what makes her work exceed a common myth-making. So when she’s Concaving Away, it is just another psychoanalytic detour from the mundane.
I dislike artsy commentaries which do not pulverize my senses. But needless to say, my review of A Strange Places other than Earlobes is only an impression of my support of all the five, phenomenal poets, and I am glad that they published the book unheeded of traditional publishers and their myopic focus on revenue alone.
Sreelatha Chakravarty’s poems in this anthology are a multiplicity of concubines to weird and fascinating metaphors. A doctor by education, Sreelatha masterfully transcends the real to the sublime, merging science with arts, or culling both of them together to elevate a certain nostalgia one can make her bed on.
“Dreams when skinned
Reveal flesh, blood and bones of life” (Plastic Surgery, Pg145)
I wanted to do a reflective article on ‘the advent and crisis of second woman’ in the lives of creative men, particularly those who are happily married. Bini S’s poem strengthened my reflex. Her response and social critique of a certain perspective of woman by another is a journey no science can deny but attest further.
Fear me, envy me
I the ice goddess, black widow
I the pied piper
When my song roams the street,
Wives cling to their men;
Breaking free from conjugal clasp
Balls roll after me,” (The Craft of Vivisection, Pg 26)
And here’s Ravi Shanker (Ra Sh) who quarters Binu in age but complements him in badassery. It is a treat to wear the pant and save one’s ‘strange places’ from the ultraviolet of their works. Ravi Shanker particularly is the Andrew Marvell of this collective, not likely to spend “Two hundred to adore each breast”. His poems playfully merge the arts and science of erotica, defy segmentation and charge the body with a goal to realization of its corporeal necessities.
In Butcher Girl 2 – A Remix, Pg 122
“She grimaces at my dying text and lets
Out a shriek of ecstasy and begins the war
With the quickness of a spider”
This review does not need an epilogue except a certain disclaimer: reading of A Strange Place other than Earlobes can be injurious to the moral faculty. The content is hideous, demands an appetite that appreciates the body beyond its primal definition.
Linda Ashok is a poet from Kolkata, living in Hyderabad, India. She was one of the 25 feature poets selected by the Prakriti Foundation for the Hindu Lit for Life, 2014. She was also selected for the 2015 Napa Valley Writer’s Workshop with Arthur Sze. Linda’s poetry appeared in various online journals, the most recent being the Big Bridge Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry. Her review/s can be found on the ‘The Rumpus’. Won the Wordweavers 2015 Dabble contest. Linda tweets at @thebluelimit. More: rlpoetry.org
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
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